CHARLESTON, W.Va. — West Virginia Division of Highways officials downplayed a recent report by the Associated Press which found problems with nearly 200 bridges in the West Virginia highway system.
The report indicated 178 West Virginia spans were “fracture critical.” The term meant there were no redundant features to protect from collapse if a vital component were to fail. The bridges were also classified by engineers as “structurally deficient.” The term used to describe bridges in need of rehabilitation or replacement.
“Those terms are just technical terms that engineers use as they describe the deterioration on bridges,” said DOH spokesman Brent Walker. “Those terms aren’t there to frighten the public,”
Walker said he realized the descriptions in the often complicated world of engineering carry a whole different weight when used in everyday discussion. Ultimately he said the public shouldn’t be worried.
“Everyone of those bridges, while they may show signs of some deterioration, they are absolutely safe,” he said. “Or we wouldn’t have vehicles traveling on them.”
A struggle for road maintenance budgets and the collapse of a bridge in Minnesota have brought the national focus onto bridge safety more than it’s ever been. Walker said the DOH is keenly aware of the needs and closely monitors all spans.
“We’ve got an aggressive inspection program. The majority are being inspected every two years and some are inspected every year,” he said. “We will make repairs, we will replace it, or if we don’t have the funding we will reduce the load limit.”